- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
My wife — who is often much smarter about politics than me — has a different take on the Nobel Peace Prize. I just got off Skype with her, and she thinks this was the Nobel Prize Committee’s way of pre-empting either an escalation in Afghanistan OR a military strike against Iran. In her view, how could Obama launch a war in the Middle East, or significantly raise the stakes in Central Asia, after receiving this award?
If she’s right, it would lend new meaning to the phrase "Taming American Power." But as the realist in the family, I’m skeptical. Idealists have been counting on "world public opinion" to restrain great powers for a long time now (remember the League of Nations, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact?) and it rarely, if ever, works. If Obama were foolish enough to think that bombing Iran would actually make things better, I don’t think a little embarrassment to the Norwegian Nobel Committee would stop him. And since he’s already got the Prize, he wouldn’t be blowing his chances for it.